When people say “beauty is pain,” they probably aren’t talking about the agony of a flat iron burn.
But what can you expect when you use a tool that heats up to oven-hot temperatures to style your hair? Even if you’re an old pro with a flat iron, you might get burned from time to time.
The bad news is that a burn from a flat iron can leave a permanent mark. The good news is that knowing how to treat a flat iron burn can minimize scarring and reduce any discomfort.
So, how to treat a burn from a flat iron? Here’s everything you need to know.
Understand the Types of Flat Iron Burn
Different types of a burn are rated by degrees or severity. When you’re figuring out how to treat a flat iron burn, it’s very likely that you’re dealing with the mildest type of wound.
There are cases when a burn from a flat iron is a bit more severe, though. Here’s what to look for and how to recognize different burn types.
- First-degree burn. A first-degree burn is usually the mildest, least damaging type of burn, according to WebMD. When you’re dealing with a first-degree burn, just the outermost layer of skin is affected.
First degree burns are often the least painful and easiest to treat. The skin might turn red temporarily, but damage doesn’t last long.
- Second-degree burn. A second-degree burn goes a bit deeper into the skin, down to the dermis. The skin usually forms a blister, and the burn often looks shiny.
Compared to first degree burns, second degree burns hurt quite a bit. They also tend to feel warm or even hot when you touch them.
- Third-degree burn. Here’s some good news: Unless you leave a flat iron on the skin for a prolonged amount of time, you aren’t likely to deal with a third-degree flat iron burn.
Third degree burns destroy the epidermal and dermal layers of skin, according to WebMD. The burned area might turn brown or black, and you might lose sensation in the burned area because of nerve damage.
How quickly you act after burning yourself with a flat iron and how long the tool remains in contact with your skin will determine the type of burn you’re going to face and the best way to treat it.
How to Treat a Flat Iron Burn on Skin – Do This First!
Whether you are figuring out how to treat a flat iron burn on your hand, your scalp or your face, the most important thing you can do is bring down the temperature of the burn.
Why do you want to cool down the burn ASAP? Think about pasta.
When you make pasta, you pour it into a pot of boiling water. You leave it in the pot for however long, three minutes for fresh pasta and around nine or 10 minutes for dried pasta.
Once you take it out of the boiling water, the pasta doesn’t stop cooking. It retains the heat from the water and becomes softer and softer.
If you leave the hot pasta long enough, you’ll end up with a bowl of starchy mush that no one wants to eat.
That’s why you often “shock” the pasta after cooking it by running cold water over it. The cold water halts the cooking process and preserves your dinner.
The same thing works when for a burn on the skin. If you don’t do something to cool the burn, it will keep on cooking, increasing the severity of the burn and the amount of discomfort you feel.
So how do you cool down a burn?
The easiest way to do it is to create a cold compress and apply that to the area.
To make a compress, soak a washcloth or towel in cold water. Wring out the cloth so that it’s not dripping wet, then drape it over or wrap it around the burn.
Now, you wait. Leave the compress on the burn for at least 15 minutes.
If you feel like the compress is warming up a bit, you can re-soak it in the cold water and reapply it.
You can remove the compress when the burn no longer feels warm when you touch it.
Next Steps When Treating a Flat Iron Burn
What you do next when figuring out how to treat a flat iron burn depends on how severe the wound is. If you notice any blistering, you might want to go to a doctor to have it checked out and to make sure you didn’t do any severe damage.
But if the area is red and a bit uncomfortable, you can safely treat it at home.
When treating your burn, you want to focus on moisturizing the area, increasing your comfort and reducing the risk of infection. Here’s how.
Moisturize the Area
Moisture is a must if you want to reduce the risk of the burn leaving a permanent scar or mark. You have a few options when it comes to moisturizing a flat iron burn.
- Aloe vera gel. PopSugar recommends applying aloe vera gel to the site of the burn right after you cool it down. Aloe vera doesn’t moisturize the area. It also helps to soothe and relieve discomfort.
- Vaseline. Good old Vaseline or petroleum jelly can be a lifesaver when you’re treating a burn from a flat iron. The petroleum jelly helps to lock in moisture around the burned area while also keeping any bacteria and other germs out.
- Regular lotion. You can also moisturize a burn with a regular cream, but it’s best to wait until it’s started to heal so that you don’t irritate it or increase your discomfort.
Increase Your Comfort
Even if the burn is a mild one, you’re likely to feel some discomfort and pain. You have a few options for minimizing that discomfort.
Option one is to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Doing so will help you feel better and will also reduce any swelling and inflammation in the burned area.
Option two is to apply hydrocortisone cream (1 percent, according to Teen Vogue) to the burn. The cream is an anti-inflammatory and will help to bring down swelling and reduce pain.
Reduce Risk of Infection
You must protect the burned area as it heals. That means keeping it covered to minimize exposure to bacteria and other infectious agents.
A layer of Vaseline might be sufficient to protect your burn, followed by a bandage. If you want to up the ante, you can try applying an antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin), according to Women’s Health.
How to Treat a Flat Iron Burn — What Not to Do
Now that you know what to do if you burn yourself with a flat iron let’s take a minute and hash out the things you don’t want to do.
Lousy burn advice has existed through the ages and persists today, even though we should know better. Here’s what you need to skip when treating a flat iron burn.
- Ice. When it comes to burns, ice is bad news. According to Teen Vogue, it’s too cold and can freeze the skin.
Another reason to skip the ice: it can stick to the skin, according to Women’s Health, causing it to peel off. Yuck.
- Running cold water over the burn. You’re better off sticking to a cold compress. Running water over the top of the burn, especially if the skin is broken, can cause it to flake off, increasing the risk for scars and making it take longer for the wound to heal.
- Putting butter on the burn. We don’t know where the idea that putting butter on a burn came from, but we do know that it’s a bad one. One reason why is that the butter can trap the heat in the burn, making thing so much worse, according to the BBC
- Picking at the burn. As the burn heals, it’s likely to form a scab. Whatever you do, just leave that scab alone, as picking at it will prolong healing time and increase your risk of infection and scarring.
Final Thoughts on Treating a Flat Iron Burn
When it comes to knowing how to treat a flat iron burn, it’s also a good idea to figure out what you can do to prevent a burn in the first place.
Never grab a flat iron by the heating elements or near the top when it’s plugged in. When you use it, carefully angle it away from your scalp and skin to reduce the chance of contact.
If you do burn yourself, you need to act quickly. Don’t let the burn sit there or things can get worse.
Now that you know how to treat a flat iron burn, you’re equipped to protect yourself and others from painful hairstyling mistakes.